You know how much I like to travel and visit distilleries… I actually fell in love with whisky while on my first trip to Scotland! And as I tend to receive many messages asking me for whisky-related travel tips and itineraries, I thought it would be nice to share with you 3 whisky road trips ideas (combine them all and you’ll have the ultimate Scotch whisky experience!) for your next Scottish vacations ! So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the trip!
West Coast Whisky Adventures
DAY 1/ If you’re flying from overseas, take a flight to Glasgow, it will be the ideal departure point and you can even start your trip by visiting Auchentoshan Distillery, the only triple-distilled whisky in Scotland, or the recently-open modern Clydeside Distillery.
Check my list of must-visit Glaswegian whisky bars if you’re spending the night !
DAY 2/ Head North-east to Oban – passing by the picturesque banks of Loch Lomond – stop at Loch Lomond Arms for lunch if you’re around and take a walk through the cutest Scottish village of Luss. visit Oban Distillery in the afternoon and drive South to Kennacraig (it’s more than 1 hour drive but the coastal scenery is worth the trip) to catch the latest ferry to Islay.
Here’s a list of cool places to stay on Islay !
DAY 3-4-5/ It’s now time to visit the all-mighty whisky island ! I would recommend arranging transportation first (you can even walk from one distillery to another when they are close enough), as you definitely don’t want to drink and drive ;)… And boy, you’re on freaking Islay, so drinking there will be!
My favourite distilleries to visit are Bruichladdich (don’t forget to bottle your own whisky!), Ardbeg (grab something to eat at the distillery café!), Bowmore, Laphroaig, Bunnahabhain and Kilchoman – In all honesty, I didn’t particularly enjoy my tours at Lagavulin and Caol Ila, but the distilleries are still more than worth seeing, don’t miss a chance to grab distillery exclusive bottlings either 😉
Other whisky-related activities you can do on Islay (apart from visiting all the locations that have given names to your favourite whiskies…) include checking the old Port Ellen Distillery (even if it’s to be re-open, it’s now only used as a malting facility but you can still take awesome pictures in front of the old iconic distillery wall on the beach) and the advancements of the works at Ardnahoe, the future 9th Islay distillery currently being built by Hunter Laing (make your whisky pals jealous!).
Where to eat and drink on the island ? The Peatzeria (I mean, the pun itself is already worth every penny…), Port Charlotte Hotel, The Old Kiln Café or The Islay Hotel are amongst my personal favourites.
DAY 6/ Take a ferry from Islay to Jura and spend the day on the island, of course, you’ll visit the Isle of Jura Distillery, and enjoy one of the wildest places in Scotland where the people are outnumbered by the deers ! Hike up the Paps and enjoy Jura’s unique wildlife. Take a ferry back to Islay at the end of the day.
DAY 7/ It’s time to go back to Glasgow to catch your return flight! The easiest way is to directly fly from Islay (yes, as tiny as it can be, there’s an aiport on the island ;)) to Glasgow, flights are operated by Flybe but are very weather-dependent, as is the ferry anyway!
Spirit of Speyside
DAY 1/ You can here choose to fly to Inverness, Aberdeen or even Edinburgh/Glasgow (and then take a train up North to Elgin) – and if you want to make the most out of your Speyside whisky ramblings, here are a few hotels you should check (both for their location, comfort and food & drink offer):
The Station Hotel – The Craigellachie Hotel – The Highlander Inn – The Dowans Hotel
DAY 2-3-4-5-6/ The choice of distilleries to visit is plethoric ! My personal favourites would include Glenfarclas, Benromach, Ballindaloch, Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Glen Grant, Strathisla (definitely the most beautiful…), Aberlour and Glenlivet. A great mix of old and recent, small and big, independent and giant-owned distilleries that would enable you to understand the diversity of the Scotch landscape. Check The Malt Whisky Trail‘s website for more inspiration!
A must-do in Speyside is also to visit the Speyside Cooperage where casks are being built by skilled coopers.
If you’re planning to visit Speyside in April/May, I would highly recommend to visit during the annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival and book some tastings (but also take part to the awesome Scottish ceilidhs organised during the 5-day event, a one-of-a-kind experience for non-Scottish visitors ;))
Sometimes, you also need to be reminded that Speyside is much more than whisky (and you may also need to take a break from distillery visits at one point ;), for those moments, Speyside has a lot of activities and sights to offer: drive North to the coast and enjoy a sportive boat ride with North 58° Sea Adventures, visit the Ballindaloch Castle, the ruined Elgin cathedral, or witness the craft of traditional cashmere making at Johnstons of Elgin factory.
Don’t forget to buy some malted souvenirs along the way… The Whisky Shop Dufftown or Gordon & Macphail Shop in Elgin are the best places to do so!
DAY 7/ It’s time to catch your return train/flight :'(
DAY 1/ Arrive in Inverness and settle for the day, if you’ve never seen it before, drive to the world-famous Loch Ness, you’re in Scotland after all, the whisky can wait one more day 😉 If you really want to dedicate this whole trip to whisky, drive to the nearby Royal Brackla Distillery !
DAY 2/ It’s time to head North and drive a part of one of Scotland’s most scenic roads: the NC500 ! Your first malted stop will be in Tain, where you’ll visit the famous Glenmorangie Distillery. Grab a lunch at a local pub and continue up North, visit the beautiful Dunrobin Castle (where a distillery is soon to be built!) and pursue your adventures to the village of Brora where you can stop at the Clynelish Distillery. You’ll stay here for the night, find a local B&B or guest house, northern hospitality has no common measure 😉
DAY 3/ Take your time to enjoy the coastal scenery while driving North to the Old Pulteney Distillery (it used to be the northernmost distillery in mainland Scotland for a long time, it’s not anymore;)), continue towards John’O Groats and settle in Thurso for the night (don’t forget to experience the local pubs there!)
DAY 4/ Visit the recently-built Wolfburn Distillery in Thurso, taste their delicious whiskies and head towards Scrabster to take a ferry to the magical Orkney (operated by NorthLink Ferries) ! I would recommend staying in Kirkwall but it’s all up to you!
DAY 5/ Orkney adventures : Visit the 2 Orcadian distlleries – Highland Park and Scapa and don’t miss the chance to grab distillery exclusive bottlings if you can! If you have time, Orkney also offers some wonderful sights such as The Italian Chapel, Standing Stones, Yesnaby Cliffs… It’s also a scuba diving hotspot !
DAY 6/ Take a Loganair flight back to Inverness and relax, walking around the city, visiting the Castle…
DAY 7/ It’s time to go home!